Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Build Your Own Theocracy

In a previous post, I quoted Rick Garnet on the conservative conspiracy:
...he can only report that they advanced their cause in those years by founding magazines and think tanks, seeking funding for both, associating with conservative forces within the Catholic Church, and forging ties between conservative Catholics and conservative Evangelicals.

This is all very cunning, I expect, but I believe the customary term for such methods is "democratic politics"
There is a very readable column in The Nation about Progressive Democrats trying to emulate this consarned, newfangled technique:
The time had come for the donors to think differently about how to spend their money, just as conservatives had done forty years earlier when they launched a counteroffensive against liberalism and pushed the Republican Party far to the right. The meeting was led by Rob Stein, a former official in the Clinton Administration, who'd spent the last year and a half developing a PowerPoint presentation vividly mapping the rise of the conservative movement. He'd convened the meeting to encourage progressives to emulate the conservative funders by investing in the "guts" of politics--leaders and ideas and institutions that would last beyond one election. A month later the Democracy Alliance officially came into existence, as an exclusive collective of donors and one of the progressive community's most ambitious undertakings yet.
So, are we a theocracy yet?

But, give them credit, Rob Stein and Ari Berman (the article's author) are aware that it's more than just the forms they need to find:

Almost two years along, the Alliance's 100 donors have distributed more than $50 million to center-left organizations and activists--a lot of money, yet still largely symbolic given the deep pockets of its members. Even as the donors pour millions into a new political infrastructure, however, problems have emerged that mirror many of the problems of the Democratic Party today and the progressive movement in general.

The first is determining what, exactly, the group stands for and wants to accomplish. Unlike the money guys who underwrote the right, members of the Alliance seem to lack strong ideological conviction about what the future ought to look like. And they do not have the militant perspective of outsiders eager to disrupt and overrun the party establishment. The right-wingers developed a core set of principles and stuck to them with an insurgent sense of persistence and aggressiveness. The wealthy liberals, in contrast, are still debating among themselves how to spend their money. Do Alliance members just want to be in the club or do they intend to change it? Do they want to stick with the party's stars--Bill and Hillary Clinton and their cadre of influential aides, who are preaching "moderation"--or are they ready to listen to new voices? Are they really committed, and prepared, to fund long-haul change?
So, is the Democrat's 2006 situation comparable to the Republicans back in 1964?

In 1964 the conservative wing grabbed the steering wheel of the Republican Party and swerved. They rejected the party's establishment and candidate (Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton ) and nominated Barry Goldwater. At the nominating convention, Nelson Rockefeller was booed when he tried to speak.

The conservative's reward? They took a monumental pasting in one of the most lopsided presidential elections in United States history. (Unmatched until Reagan swept 49 states in 1984.)

Conservatives saw that they were not connecting with the Main Street America. The institutions of communication (newspapers, radio and television) were either pro-Democratic or pro "Rockefeller" Republican.

So conservatives began to build the institutions that would allow them to speak to the American people. But they were not just trying to swing an election, they were communicating commonsense conservative ideas.
Of all the lessons from the right, the Alliance has forgotten arguably the most important: It takes both money and conviction to achieve victory. "It doesn't make sense to develop a strategy without a vision," says James Piereson, longtime executive director of the John M. Olin Foundation, which was one of the key half-dozen funders on the right. "It's a mistaken analogy that conservatives succeeded because of our tactics. I always thought conservatives were successful because of the ideas we were trying to sell."
The final, most difficult lesson that must be learned from the Conservatives is that you have to distance yourself from your crazies. From the late 1950's, William F. Buckley and the Conservatives started purging the party of Ayn Rand, the John Birch Society, and other extremist elements.

I don't think that the Democratic Party has the grit to show the Kos Kids and the 9/11 conspiracy theorists the door.

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